Legal Briefing: A Dell Deal the SEC (Probably) Can't Refuse

A daily look at legal news and the business of law:

Dell Close to Settling Over Bad Intel Accounting

The Wall Street Journal reports that Dell has proposed a settlement to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the SEC staff likes and will recommend the commissioners accept. At issue is how Dell did its accounting on deals with Intel. Dell (DELL) has already been forced to restate four years of earnings that its employees had manipulated in order make it appear that they'd met targets. Dell has already reserved $100 million in connection with the proposed settlement.

Citigroup Fudged Its Balance Sheet Too

Citigroup (C) joins Bank of America (BAC) in admitting to the SEC that it improperly classified borrowing as sales -- in Citi's case, approximately $9 billion of them. While Citi says the amount is immaterial, unlike Lehman Brothers' use of Repo 105, the underlying concept is the same: It let the bank remove debt from its balance sheets at the time of quarterly reports. Material or not, these reports continue to undermine the public's confidence in bank balance sheets.

Fidelity Settles with FTC Over Oligopoly Charge

Sometimes being honest is expensive: In September 2009, Fidelity National Financial (FNF) CEO Alan Simpson publicly noted that the title insurance industry had become an oligopoly, and that Fidelity could raise prices as a result. This might be what led the Federal Trade Commission to take a closer look: The FTC filed anti-competitive charges against the firm. Now Fidelity is settling the case, in part by selling off assets to increase competition in some markets.

Plaintiffs Attorneys' Fraud Results in $2 Million Verdict Being Thrown Out

The National Law Journal reports that Judge Victoria Chaney has rule that attorneys representing Nicaraguans who claimed Dole Food Company's (DOLE) pesticides made them sterile falsified medical records, coached witnesses and otherwise perpetrated a massive fraud on the court. The fact that Dole gave several witnesses cash payments equal to as much as 10 times their yearly salaries was not considered an issue. Those payments were not "actual, intentional" bribes, the judge found.

94 People Charged With Defrauding Medicare of $251 Million

In recent years the Department of Justice has worked with other agencies to target Medicare fraud, and Friday came the latest bust: 94 people were indicted around the country for defrauding Medicare of a combined $251 million. That brings the total since March 2007 to 810 individuals charged for over $1.85 billion in false Medicare claims. Nice to see the government doing something about the infamous "waste, fraud and abuse" everyone wants to eliminate.

And in the Business of Law...

Above the Law offers these two gems of the legal profession: A partner suing two former associates for libel for reporting his alleged drunken sexual harassment to his firm, and a soon-to-be prosecutor who tried to get out of a ticket by going on an abusive power trip on the basis of that job. Luckily for the locals, she lost her job when the incident came to light.